Attracting passers-by and accommodating peak times with design
Le James of McGill University located outside the formal campus, is a bookstore designed as an extension of the downtown Montreal campus. The bookstore is a fully connected campus space, a catalyst between the university and the city of Montreal. It becomes a place for exchange and academic pride that allows students to appropriate the site.
Located on two levels (ground floor and basement), the bookstore focusses its attention on a large central staircase. This element is inspired by the traditional exterior stairs of the McGill university buildings that students have become accustomed to occupying. This striking element serves both as a circulation tool and as a visual link. Its strategic location and generous size allow a great source of natural light into the basement, thus anchoring this space in the context of the street.
The oversized, step-inspired staircase creates a gathering place that encourages connections between McGill students. Above the staircase, vintage industrial lights have been installed to soften the light on this space, creating a comforting and welcoming place. With charging stations integrated into it, the staircase aims to accommodate spontaneous work sessions for students. The use of bamboo, the transparency of railings that highlight the original concrete structure and the built-in benches encourage the staircase to become a meeting place conducive to interactions.
Instead of changing the outside entrance or enlarging it, Kanva designed a tier in bamboo in front of the bookstore, in the lobby of the building to attract passers-by. This relaxing area is used to introduce the grand staircase, marking the presence of the bookstore Le James in the semi-public domain.
Bamboo is the main material of Le James Bookstore. Chosen for its durability and its environmental aspect, it was dedicated to the staircase and all the floors of the bookstore. Bamboo creates a fluid connection between the ground floor and the basement. The use of bamboo for the staircase and the transparency of the railings highlight the original concrete structure. One of the design strategies was to give an industrial impression to the bookstore. To do so, the concrete was unveiled, vintage industrial lamps were added and all electromechanical services were exposed. Another design strategy was to use a subtle, natural color palette so that the merchandise, most of which is red, would be contrasted and attract passers-by.
Another challenge was to create a flexible program to accommodate different peak times in the bookstore. During the year, the proportion between the number of books and the amount of clothing that occupies the shop varies according to peak periods. The furniture is designed to create distinct layouts that adapt to the library’s needs, which vary according to the seasons, thus facilitating traffic and safety during high traffic periods.